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Lent Lessons from the Little Ones

For a child summers are endless. Birthdays take years to arrive and Christmas only comes once a decade.

Adults, on the other hand, find that time passes so quickly it gives you whiplash – except when it’s Lent. For those six weeks, at least for me, time seems to stand still. Practicing small mortifications by either doing without a pleasure (alcohol, chocolate, chips) or adding something additional (prayer, Adoration, more volunteer hours), is hard. Very hard. There are always excuses.

I’m ill, I’m traveling, I’m tired, it’s not convenient. It’s so easy to find a reason. And once found, it’s so easy to rationalize that it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Because this Lent I’ve been ill, traveling, and tired, and because more often than not I’ve found that both sacrifices and additions were simply never convenient, I know what I’m talking about. So far Lent has been a washout.

Fortunately, it’s not over yet and there is still time to do something about it. To make that happen, for these remaining weeks, I am going to follow Jesus’ advice that we should be like little children. However, I’m not going to focus on little children in general, but on the lessons that can be learned from my two young grandsons.

The Moose – age 8 months – is learning to crawl. He has been trying for months and mostly falls flat on this face. But he is single-minded and determined and pushes himself back up and tries again and again. Young as he is, something tells him that if he stays on his face each time he falls, he will never make the forward progress he wants.

After much face-planting these last few weeks, he is very close to zooming all over the house (something that I will no doubt regret in the long-term; however in the short-term, we are all cheering him on.)

What I need to learn from this baby Moose is that one forgotten rosary or one failure to forgo the wine or the chips, or even four failures or twenty failures doesn’t mean I should give up. I should just try again. If I don’t try again, failure is guaranteed. I stay right where I am. If I do try, I might just keep moving forward.

Milk and cookies, peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs, bacon and eggs, cinnamon and sugar, pizza and beer: Some foods simply go together.

The Engineer – age 8 – feels this way about ketchup and, well, food in general. In his world, ketchup makes everything taste better – whether it’s sausages or fish and chips or hot dogs or burgers or ham or chicken or you name it. (This, I think, is most likely a legacy from his American side: my father (and his namesake) would only eat lettuce if he could put ketchup on it.)

Ketchup is a given when The Engineer sits down at the table and ketchup is what he gave up for Lent. He knew it would be hard, but he said he was old enough and he wanted to do something really hard for Jesus. And he has stuck to it. Never wavered. In spite of the numerous opportunities to cheat (we ate out a lot during last week’s visit across the pond, and there were sausages and fish and chips galore), he hasn’t added a drop of ketchup to anything. He looked wistful a number of times and sighed and said that ketchup would have made something taste better, but he never once reached for the bottle.

I am so proud of him that he is now my inspiration: when temptation rolls around (as it does every few minutes), I think of The Engineer standing firm. Surely if a little one who finds time stretching endlessly out in front of him can keep a resolution, I can, too, for these last few weeks.

This Lent has certainly not been the Lent I envisioned. Fortunately because it is passing as slowly as Lent always seems to, I still have plenty of time for a mid-course correction. And because of The Engineer and The Moose, I know exactly how to do it.

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